Christmas ‘in our hands’ as people urged to get Covid-19 boosters
People have been urged to take up the offer of a Covid-19 booster in a bid to save Christmas as it has been suggested that the booster programme will extend to include over-40s.
Professor Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) said that people should have the booster vaccine when it is offered in a bid to prevent more restrictions going into winter.
And Government minister Oliver Dowden said it was up to the public whether new controls would need to be imposed.
It comes as reports suggest that the booster programme will be extended to under-50s in a bid to stave off a winter surge in cases.
The Times reported that Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to give its approval to extending the rollout to under-50s, with precise details to be set out at a briefing on Monday.
The Sun said the programme would initially be extended to those in their late 40s.
It comes as Conservative Party chairman Mr Dowden said the vaccination programme offers the best assurance that further Covid-19 restrictions will not be needed over Christmas.
“It is in our hands. If you get the booster when the call comes that is the biggest wall of defence that we have against Covid,” he told Sky News.
“I am confident that if we stick the course, people take the boosters when they are asked to do so, that vaccine wall will hold up and we will be able to have a decent Christmas this year.
“There are no plans to stop Christmas happening. The huge difference this time is the vaccine.”
He cautioned, however, that controls could be needed if the situation changed dramatically, such as the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus.
“We haven’t ruled it out. If the situation changes dramatically we would have to review that again.”
Meanwhile, Prof Tildesley said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospect of a normal Christmas.
He told Sky News: “If we look at (the trends) we can see that although there has been quite a lot of variation over the past few weeks, and we’re still reporting very high numbers of cases, the total number of daily hospital admissions and the total number of deaths are quite a long way below where we were in November last year, which should give us some level of confidence.”
He added: “The booster vaccination campaign is going far better than it was a few weeks ago, but there’s still quite a lot of eligible people who have not yet had their booster jab.
“So it’s really important if we do want to avoid restrictions ramping up that we get as many of those people out to get their booster jabs as possible over the next few weeks.”
Vaccination officials have previously said that people should not be able to get a third jab until six months have passed since their second in order to give them longer lasting immunity.
So far some 12.6 million people have had a third Covid-19 jab.
Officials are also pressing ahead with offering a first dose to more children aged 12 to 15.
It comes as experts in the UK will be closely watching as Israel announced it would be vaccinating children aged five and older.
Prof Tildesley said: “I think there are some tough decisions that have to be made over the next few weeks.
“I don’t think it’s my place to comment on on whether or not we should vaccinate certain age groups, that’s a decision for the JCVI.
“When it gets to younger people what they have to look at is the benefits and risks to the individual, and the thing with very young children of course is that generally they don’t get very sick but of course by vaccinating them it protects the rest of the population indirectly.
“So (those are) the decisions that the Government, guided by JCVI, are going to have to make over the next few weeks.”
Prof Tildesley said that repeated vaccinations could be offered “for years to come” to keep Covid-19 at bay.
As the disease becomes a regular part of society it will probably be “managed with repeated vaccination campaigns”.
“In the longer term, Covid is likely to become endemic and we probably are going to have to manage it with repeated vaccination campaigns for years to come,” he told Sky News.
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox